Recently, I had the opportunity to watch an episode of CNBC’s, “The Profit.” For those of you not familiar, entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis goes into struggling businesses and offers advice, mentorship and an investment to the leaders of the business in the hopes of creating an extremely lucrative endeavor.
This particular program brought something solidly home to me: communication, ALL communication is based on finding a common ground. In this episode of the show, the business owner had completely alienated himself from his employees. He found fault with everything they did and saw them as nothing more than tools, not people. Even when he was faced with Mr. Lemonis, a number of employees AND a workplace psychologist explaining to him that the employees were desperately unhappy, he refused to hear. All he did was insist that he was a good boss and that it was everyone else that had the problem.. His solutions to the difficulties were going to be to get new employees. This boss simply would not accept that there was any common ground between himself and his employees. He wouldn’t listen and certainly didn’t speak to anyone in a way that valued them, and subsequently lost a very lucrative opportunity.
As an entrepreneur myself, I am constantly educating myself and using “cyber-mentors” to move my company forward. Curating our product and our people is what builds a business. As soldier, joker and queen of my lean startup, the onus is on me to keep learning, growing and evolving, or die.
Common ground. It’s a shared goal or a reciprocal situation, like in a classroom. It’s a desire to learn, an exchange. It’s our workplaces. It’s our love relationships. It’s culture, experiences or even a shared moment. Anywhere or anytime that we and someone else can find something in common, we can communicate. It isn’t even necessary to speak the same language to find common ground, as proven by the universal body language of “need bathroom” or “how you doin’?” We all walk on the same planet, so it should be the easiest thing in the world to find something to share. You would think…
How can we find commonality with someone who we seemingly have nothing in common? The answer is empathy. It’s a skill. It’s more than sympathy, it’s the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another person. To imagine that it’s YOU in that situation and to imagine what you might do, what you might think and how you might feel. To take that examination, use it and move forward is one of the marks of an excellent leader. This is what actors do. We build everything on the shared space between ourselves and the character we’re going to inhabit.
The business owner in this television show did not have the skills necessary to understand or even listen to the needs of his employees. He was incapable of empathy and so, unfortunately, he and everyone around him lost in a huge way.
LB Adams is the Owner of Pragmatic Dramatics based out of Charleston SC. Her company uses basic acting techniques and theatre games to train business professionals to communicate more effectively.
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